Community Development Volunteer Program in Ecuador - Santa Elena
Curious about Community Development volunteering in Ecuador - Santa Elena? International Volunteer HQ’s Community project allows volunteers to try a range of different types of volunteering while helping local initiatives improve their communities. Whether it’s by renovating, beautifying or improving facilities, or hosting workshops on important social issues, volunteers make a tangible difference to bettering neighbourhoods for the benefit of the people who live there.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from AU$545 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Make an impact by helping out where it is most needed
Discover Ecuador’s amazing cloud forests
Stay with other volunteers in the coastal town of Santa Elena
Who is this program suited to?
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
The Community Development project is a great chance to get involved in a number of initiatives designed to improve local communities. Volunteers can help with a range of tasks based on what’s most important at the time.
As a Community Development volunteer you’ll work with local groups who work to better their neighbourhoods. Duties will vary depending on the initiative, but often include:
- Maintaining, cleaning up and renovating local schools, community centers and playgrounds
- Hosting workshops on important social issues such as non-violence, women’s empowerment, school support and human rights.
Basic Spanish is recommended but not required for this project.
Why do Community Development volunteering in Santa Elena with IVHQ?
When you volunteer on the Community project in Santa Elena you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Supporting local initiatives in low-income neighbourhoods
- Practicing your Spanish
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining community development experience
- Trying a variety of volunteer activities
- Immersing yourself fully in the Ecuadorian culture
- Discovering the extraordinary ancient history of the Santa Elena area
- Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
- Volunteers aged 16-18 are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team
- All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
- All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
- All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Ecuador photo gallery
”After a short time it already felt like home. The people are friendly and welcoming and you feel so loved during your project and at the accommodation. There are endless things to do in Ecuador and because of this experience I would love to return soon. The local team are amazing hosts and even better people!”
Read reviews from Community Development volunteers in Santa ElenaSee more reviews
The Ecuadorian coastal city of Santa Elena and surrounding areas are home to a wide range of IVHQ projects. On the Pacific coast, Santa Elena is in close proximity to some of Ecuador’s best beaches and archeological history. There is a great need for volunteers to assist with the development of this city and its communities, especially as tourism to the area grows.
Arrival and orientation
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive into José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) in Guayaquil.
You should arrive on the Sunday prior to your program start date and the airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee. When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a driver from the local team and taken to the volunteer accommodation in Santa Elena, which can take up to 2 hours.
We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation.
Orientation is hosted by our local team at their volunteer offices in Santa Elena. Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program - an introduction to Ecuador, Ecuadorian customs, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Ecuador and an introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.
Volunteer schedule example
Please note that volunteering on the Ecuador program is held Tuesday through Friday (expect to participate for full days, unless you’re also taking Spanish language lessons, in which case you will volunteer for half days). Therefore the weekends on the program are Saturday through Monday.
A typical day might look like this:
|7:30 AM||Breakfast at the volunteer house or homestay.|
|8:00 AM||Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements. Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that each volunteer is working at. There is a break for lunch and volunteers are responsible for the purchase of this meal.|
|2:00 - 5:00 PM||Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel back to their accommodation, prepare for the next day, or do some shopping and sightseeing. If volunteers are taking Spanish language lessons, these will usually take place in the afternoons and last between 2 and 3 hours.|
|7:30 PM||Dinner at the volunteer house or homestay.|
To ensure the safety of our volunteers and respect of others in the volunteer accommodation, a curfew of 10:30 PM has been put in place from Monday to Thursday and a 1:30 AM curfew for Friday to Sunday. Volunteers under the age of 18 will have a curfew of 8:00 PM.
Accommodation and WiFi
While in Santa Elena, you’ll stay in a volunteer house with other IVHQ participants. Bedrooms have single beds or bunk beds, in rooms shared with up to 5 other volunteers of the same gender. Living is comfortable and the volunteer house has electricity, running water and western bathrooms.
To ensure the safety of our volunteers and respect of others in the volunteer accommodation, a curfew of 10:30 PM has been put in place from Monday to Thursday and a 1:30 AM curfew for Friday to Sunday.
There is WiFi available but it can be very slow, and a great patio area with hammocks for volunteers to relax after volunteering is onsite.
WiFi is also available in the cafe across the road from the volunteer accommodation, or you can purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked phone when you arrive in Ecuador.
Volunteers are provided with breakfast and dinner every day on the Ecuador program. Breakfast is usually tea or coffee, cereals, local breads, condiments, fruits and cheese.
Dinners will be a mixture of traditional Ecuadorian meals like meat or vegetarian stews, rice, vegetables or potatoes and western meals. Carbohydrates, such as potatoes, bananas, plantains, bread and rice are common ingredients for Ecuadorian dishes. Lunches can be purchased locally for approximately AU$4 - AU$7.
Please note that it is not possible for the local team to accommodate a vegan diet on the Ecuador - Santa Elena program. IVHQ offers plenty of destinations which can cater to a vegan diet, so please get in touch if this presents an issue for you. Otherwise, if you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can make arrangements for you. We will do our best to see that you are well taken care of, however, you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||AU$545 Equivalent to AU$78/day|
|2 weeks||AU$740 Equivalent to AU$53/day|
|3 weeks||AU$987 Equivalent to AU$47/day|
|4 weeks||AU$1189 Equivalent to AU$43/day|
|5 weeks||AU$1435 Equivalent to AU$41/day|
|6 weeks||AU$1637 Equivalent to AU$39/day|
|8 weeks||AU$2026 Equivalent to AU$37/day|
|10 weeks||AU$2520 Equivalent to AU$36/day|
|12 weeks||AU$2849 Equivalent to AU$34/day|
- Breakfast and dinner
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Discounts on language lessons
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of AU$447 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in AUD.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, lunches, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Santa Elena generally find US$50 - US$100 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as lunches, Spanish language lessons, and local tours and activities.
Spend the morning exploring the marine reserve of El Pelado islet where you will find a large diversity of fish, coral, and marine invertebrates.
This excursion costs US$85 (approximately AU$127) per person and includes your snorkeling equipment, marine identification guides, and a snorkeling instructor for your 3 hour visit. Please note, you must be a confident swimmer to participate.
Transportation is not included in this activity, but our local team will be happy to help you make these arrangements in Santa Elena.
Salsa Dance Classes:
Learn the art of salsa dancing under the guidance of a professional choreographer alongside your fellow volunteers!
This activity costs US$26 (approximately AU$38) per person and the dance class will take 1 hour to complete. Please note, transportation is not included in this activity, but our local team will be happy to help you make these arrangements in Santa Elena.
Learn how to surf like the pros with a surf lesson from a qualified surf instructor on the beaches of Santa Elena. Swells from both the south and north provide optimal conditions year round for surfers of all ages and levels, so grab your fellow volunteers and hang ten, dude!
This activity costs US$55 (approximately AU$82) per person and includes your surfboard and qualified surf instructor with more than 10 years experience. The surf lesson will take 1.5 hours to complete. Please note, transportation is not included in this activity, but our local team will be happy to help you make these arrangements in Santa Elena.
Launch yourself off a grassy cliff top just north of Ayangue, and enjoy a tandem paragliding flight with a professional guide over the Santa Elena coastline.
This activity costs US$75 (approximately AU$112) per person and includes your safety instructor, guide, equipment, and photos of your experience, and your flight will take approximately 15-20 minutes. Please note, all safety equipment is new and internationally certified, and all guides are trained and qualified.
Transportation is not included in this activity, but our local team will be happy to help you make these arrangements in Santa Elena.
Please contact us or your IVHQ Program Manager to sign up or to get more information about any of these activities.
Affordable Spanish Language Lessons
Spanish language lessons are available for all volunteers regardless of their ability. IVHQ strongly recommends these for all volunteers unless they are fluent in Spanish. Volunteers with a basic level of Spanish should strongly consider these lessons to allow them to work and communicate more effectively during their program. These language lessons are organised upon your arrival in Ecuador during your program orientation. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and must be paid for in Ecuador to our local staff. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers.
- 12 hours/6 days = AU$146 (or 3 days intensive)
- 20 hours/10 days = AU$239 (or 5 days intensive)
- 30 hours/15 days = AU$418 (or 8 days intensive)
- 40 hours/10 days intensive = AU$448
- 60 hours/15 days intensive = AU$673
- 80 hours/20 days intensive = AU$867
Check what's required to visit Ecuador
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Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Currency||US Dollar (USD)|
Weather and climate: The climate of Ecuador has a number of microclimates that separate into four distinct zones. La Costa (Costal Lowlands) is tropical, La Sierra (Andean Mountains) is temperate; and El Oriente (Amazon Region) shares the jungle climate of the upper Amazon rain forest.